In a watershed moment, govt relaxes genome editing from stringent GM crops regulations

Given the fact that potential of genome editing was recognized across the world more than a decade back, there has been far less movement on its regulatory approval in India

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New Delhi: Finally, the government has taken a big call on agricultural biotechnology sector. Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change has issued an order exempting few genome edited crops from the stringent regulations applicable on genetically modified or GM crops.
Coming off as a big moment of rejoice for scientists working on agri-biotech products, this move shall provide an impetus to their further research and development.
The notification is expected to pave a path for the concerned departments of the government as well as the Department of Biotechnology at the Ministry of Science and Technology to approve and notify the Guidelines on Genome Edited Plants pending since early 2020.
Bhagirath Choudhary, Founder Director of the South Asia Biotechnology Centre (SABC) believes that exempting SDN1/SDN2 categories of genome edited plants free from transgene is scientifically logical and much needed incentive for our scientific community.
“The only benefits of this policy decision is that Genome edited SDN1/SDN2 category plants will be absolved from the cumbersome GMO regulatory system, which has hampered R&D and commercialization of biotech traits in India due to polarized debate on risk/benefits of such products,” said Choudhary.
“In essence, Genome edited SDN1/SDN2 category plants will be initially regulated by IBSC/RCGM under EPA Rules 1989 and subsequently under the Seed Act of Ministry of Agriculture and farmers welfare- a unique duel regulatory system ensuring Biosafety and benefits of technology for the welfare of smallholder growers,” added the Director of SABC.
Genome editing is an assimilation of technologies that give scientists the ability to change an organism’s DNA. These technologies allow genetic material to be added, removed, or altered at particular locations in the genome.
Given the fact that potential of genome editing was recognized across the world more than a decade back, there has been far less movement on its regulatory approval in India.
As per experts, Ministry of Environment notification has recognized the potential of genome editing technology in agriculture. According to them, the application of genome editing tools such as CRISPR in the last decade has revolutionized crop improvement imparting traits such as disease resistance, quality and biofortification.
In the recent past, many countries have either developed and/or approved for commercial cultivation of vegetables, fruits, oilseeds and cereals developed through genome editing such as Gamma-aminobutyric acid GABA tomato, high oleic canola and soybean, non-browning mushroom and reduced black spot potato.